Philadelphia Spice Box, ca. 1775

Value (2006) | $85,000 Retail

GUEST:
This has been in my family forever. I remember it growing up, always on a table in the corner, and it was something that's always been kind of treasured by our family members. My father traced it back to 1750.

APPRAISER:
Okay. I saw a little inscription on a piece of paper that said...

GUEST:
Weiss, yes. Jacob Weiss.

APPRAISER:
He was a pretty well-known colonel in Philadelphia-- German descent, and he would have been able to afford a special thing like this. They were really popular in England in the 17th century. And in America, in Boston and Connecticut, in that area, spice boxes became unpopular. Down in Pennsylvania, they kept making them. I believe that this is probably made right here in Philadelphia.

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
And it was made somewhere between, I'd say about 1765 and 1780. Now, they were sometimes made out of curly maple. They were sometimes made out of black walnut, American black walnut, which is a local wood. That'd be more expensive. And really, really, really rarely, they were made out of mahogany.

GUEST:
Mahogany?

APPRAISER:
And this box... I was going to say cherry. This box is actually made out of figured mahogany. If you look at these figured panels here, these applied arch panels, which are on these mahogany doors, and come down to this molded base with a drop pendant, and this is really rare.

GUEST:
This?

APPRAISER:
Yeah. They rarely have a drop pendant. They were usually just plain here, or they had bracket feet. But to have the ogee bracket feet and the dropped pendant, that's really special. And then the mahogany, as I said, was expensive, because it had to be imported.

GUEST:
Imported.

APPRAISER:
It didn't grow here. They had these escutcheons in the front, which would have been ordered from Birmingham to lock this.

GUEST:
Mm-hmm.

APPRAISER:
And during the time when they did put spices in them--

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
--the spices were worth as much as the box. Now this is what really-- I get excited about it, okay-- the fact that when you open up these mahogany doors, what's in the very center that's unbelievable?

GUEST:
This drawer?

APPRAISER:
That drawer. Do you know that I cannot find-- I did some quick homework-- we can't find any spice boxes with that design? With a fan there. This fan turns up on desks from the 18th century, from Philadelphia and this area. And to find it on the inside of a spice chest, with that punch work... do you see that wonderful punch work in there?

GUEST:
Oh, yeah.

APPRAISER:
Isn't that neat? It's really special. I mean, this is a top-end, this is like a deluxe model. Look at the sides here.

GUEST:
Mm-hmm.

APPRAISER:
Yellow pine. That's a locally grown wood. Look at the thinness of them. They're usually about another eighth of an inch thicker. See how fine that is? And the detailing on the dovetails, it's just absolute, absolute quality. Everything here is what you want to see. It looks like it wasn't made long ago, because it's been protected from the air. So, value-wise, any idea?

GUEST:
Well, what I was doing in the basement, looking for pictures and things that went with this, I did find an appraisal from 1967 down in Philly, for $5,000.

APPRAISER:
$5,000 in 1967. Today this box, because it has the double panels--

GUEST:
Mm-hmm, mahogany. ...

APPRAISER:
--because it has the drop pendant, because it's mahogany, because it has that shell, all those things added up, all the extras, that would make the spice box worth, let's say, retail, $85,000.

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
$85,000 just as it is.

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
Do you know who cleaned it ever?

GUEST:
My father always took great care of it.

APPRAISER:
He took care of it.

GUEST:
I haven't done a thing to it. He was... very much loved it.

APPRAISER:
Well, on 18th century furniture like this, you like... well, you like to see it grungy. If this were grungy...

GUEST:
Yeah?

APPRAISER:
Guess what this would be.

GUEST:
Don't tell me.

APPRAISER:
Can I? Do you mind?

GUEST:
Go ahead.

APPRAISER:
You can add 100.

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
Add 100,000.

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
It'd be $185,000, easily.

GUEST:
Wow. That's a big difference.

APPRAISER:
But still, 85 and you spiced up my day. I know that's corny, but you spiced up my life.

GUEST:
Thank you.

APPRAISER:
They'll probably cut that, right? Cut that. That was corny.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Keno Auctions
New York, New York
Appraised value (2006)
$85,000 Retail
Event
Philadelphia, PA (August 05, 2006)
Period
18th Century
Form
Spice Box
Material
Mahogany, Pine

Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.

Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."

Note the date: Take note of the date the appraisal was recorded. This information appears in the upper left corner of the page, with the label "Appraised On." Values change over time according to market forces, so the current value of the item could be higher, lower, or the same as when our expert first appraised it.

Context is key: Listen carefully. Most of our experts will give appraisal values in context. For example, you'll often hear them say what an item is worth "at auction," or "retail," or "for insurance purposes" (replacement value). Retail prices are different from wholesale prices. Often an auctioneer will talk about what she knows best: the auction market. A shop owner will usually talk about what he knows best: the retail price he'd place on the object in his shop. And though there are no hard and fast rules, an object's auction price can often be half its retail value; yet for other objects, an auction price could be higher than retail. As a rule, however, retail and insurance/replacement values are about the same.

Verbal approximations: The values given by the experts on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW are considered "verbal approximations of value." Technically, an "appraisal" is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert and paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal usually involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object.

Opinion of value: As with all appraisals, the verbal approximations of value given at ROADSHOW events are our experts' opinions formed from their knowledge of antiques and collectibles, market trends, and other factors. Although our valuations are based on research and experience, opinions can, and sometimes do, vary among experts.

Appraiser affiliations: Finally, the affiliation of the appraiser may have changed since the appraisal was recorded. To see current contact information for an appraiser in the ROADSHOW Archive, click on the link below the appraiser's picture. Our Appraiser Index also contains a complete list of active ROADSHOW appraisers and their contact details and biographies.